The secret to helping your child defeat discouragement

By Janis Meredith | Posted 7/14/2017

It’s hard to watch your child get discouraged when playing sports. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill to help your child bounce back. However, there are ways you can help them overcome discouragement. 

Respect the process 

Every parent’s first instinct is to rescue a child when their difficulty arises. But next time your young athlete faces a problem, swallow that urge and ask your child what he thinks he should do about the situation. Let them think through the struggle and try to find a solution. Encourage them to think for themselves and ask them questions to spur their thinking. 

If your athlete persists, they will eventually return to their A-game, and be stronger because they went through the process. 

Applaud the process 

In a recent study, Dr. Elizabeth Gunderson says that parents should praise their kids on their strategies, jobs they did well, and their effort. Her team calls this “process praise” and concluded that the more process praise kids get during early childhood, the more likely they would become resilient. 

Focus on strategies: I like how you read the defense and saw where to pass the ball. 

Focus on a job well-done: That pass was right on target! 

Focus on effort: Your hard work is really starting to pay off; you’re much quicker at getting to the ball. 

Refrain from negativity or pushing. It only puts more pressure on your child. Remarks like “Aren’t you afraid you will lose your starting spot?” or “You’ve GOT to work harder!!!” add another stress to his mind: the worry of not pleasing you. 

Push through the slump 

Help your child realize that even pros go through slumps. Going through a slump is no reflection of your child’s skills and abilities. No one can stay on top 100% of the time. A real athlete understands that and learns to push through the slump. 

As your child pushes, it’s your job to show love and support. Believe in your child, and express that belief without conditions. You will bounce back. I love you and am proud of you. No ifs, ands, or buts—but you need to work harder or but you must be more aggressive. The most important thing for your child to learn in the slump is that she can work her way out of it. 

Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping-stones to success. Parents, remember that discouragement is not fatal. Your child can recover and be stronger because of it. It is probably going to be harder on you watching them struggle through the process than it will be on them going through it. 

Janis B. Meredith is a sportsparenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents is available on Amazon.